Brooklyn Councilman, Jumaane Williams, told jurors at his obstruction and disorderly conduct trial on Friday that he believed “something illegal was being done” when his activist pal, Trinidadian Ravi Ragbir, was being deported and that he felt he had to block an ambulance to stop it.
Williams, 42, was with other elected officials and demonstrators near Federal Plaza protesting what they had heard was an order to deport Ravi Ragbir — which had come down during a January 11 routine Immigration and Customs Enforcement check-in for the longtime US resident, originally from Trinidad.
The Brooklyn elected official, who is running for lieutenant governor alongside gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, admittedly blocked the ambulance that was taking Ragbir and his ICE escort to a nearby hospital where he was to be examined after he fainted in custody, the New York Daily News reported on Saturday.
“Ravi is a friend and an example of a resident and leader,” Williams said in response to questioning by his lawyer, Rhidaya Trivedi, in Manhattan Criminal Court. “What I saw was horrible. People didn’t know what was going on.”
Williams said he thought Ragbir was being “snatched from his family without saying goodbye.”
He and other supporters believed that Ragbir was being ushered away in an ambulance as a ruse to get him shipped out unnoticed.
An EMT testified Thursday that he refused the ICE agent escort who ordered him to take Ragbir directly to a detention center, telling the federal immigration official that his job was to make hospital transports only.
Evidence at the trial revealed that Ragbir asked to go to the hospital after fainting in ICE offices upon hearing the devastating news.
Williams and his City Council colleague Ydanis Rodriguez, who represents Washington Heights and Inwood, parked themselves in front of the FDNY bus and kept it from moving until they were arrested.
Ragbir’s deportation was ultimately stayed by a federal judge, but not before officials flew him to a detention center in Miami after the chaotic sequence of events that spurred Williams’s arrest.
“I believe something illegal was being done and I had to stop it,” Williams said on the witness stand. “What was happening was wrong.”
On cross-examination by prosecutor Ryan Hayward, Williams said he assumed Ragbir was in good health because he’d heard it from City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who was also present.
Hayward asked Williams if he’d known, when he sat in front of the emergency vehicle, that Ragbir “had passed out for 30 seconds to a minute inside the building.”
Williams said he assumed he was in a transport vehicle “because they wanted to make sure he was OK.”
“So that was your assumption? That the ambulance was there for a valid medical reason to check on his health?”
“These were determinations I just didn’t make,” the official admitted.
Hayward suggested that Williams — without having firsthand knowledge of Ragbir’s medical condition — acted out of pure emotion that was not justified by the facts.
“I believed something illegal was being done and I had to do everything I could do to stop it,” Williams said.
Trivedi and Ron Kuby, who are representing Williams, hope the jury will clear Williams on the grounds that his acts were necessary.
Prosecutors are expected to argue that Williams had no such right.